What If?

Late last week, my wife Lisa came down with some cold/flu thing so we swung by our nearest Redbox to pick up a movie. What we ended up with is the ultra chick-flick “Letters to Juliet.” Other than being your typical, predictable film, it was cute.

Then something unexpected happened. Toward the end of the movie, one of the characters said something that knocked me upside the head:

“What” and “if” are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But, put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life.

If you want to create a life you’re proud of, build a legacy, and live a life with few regrets, you need to wrestle with the “What if” questions right now. Here’s a tip: read them as if you’re at the end of your life looking back. Then ask yourself what you can change in your life today. I’ve broken them into categories to make it easier to think about the different areas of your life.

Warning: You will ask these questions eventually. Better now than when it’s too late to do anything about them.

Career
What if you started that business you dreamed about for years?
What if you made your living doing something that made you feel alive?
What if money were no object? What would you do?
What if you could answer that question with, “I’m already doing it”?
What if your unemployment was really just an opportunity to try something new?
What if you didn’t accept that “this is how life works”?
What if you didn’t spend 2 weeks each year escaping from the work you do the other 50?
What if you found a job that combined your strengths and passions?
What if you spent less time in front of the TV?

Risk/Fear
What if you didn’t care what other people thought of you?
What if you acted in spite of your fear?
What if you said “Yes” when fear told you to say “No”?
What if you said “No” when fear told you to say “Yes”?
What if you didn’t quit?
What if you did quit?
What if you failed knowing that at least you tried?
What if you didn’t fail?
What if you didn’t learn from your failures?
What if they laughed at you?
What if they gave you a standing ovation?
What if you tried out for that team or applied for that position?
What if they say no?
What if they say yes?

Relationships/Family
What if you worked as hard on your marriage as you do in your job?
What if you spent more time with your kids and less time with your work?
What if you made the phrase “I love you” part of your daily life?
What if you called your parents more often?
What if you said, “I’m sorry”?
What if you said, “I forgive you”?
What if you said, “Thank you”?
What if you did something unexpected for someone you love, just because?
What if you did something for someone who couldn’t give you anything in return?
What if your memories were filled with more laughter than tears?
What if you cared as much about others as you do about yourself?

Health
What if you exercised just 20 minutes each day?
What if you quit smoking?
What if you lost weight?
What if you ate better?

Finances
What if you had no debt?
What if you spent less money?
What if you saved more money?
What if you gave more of your money?
What if you cut up your credit cards and consumed less?
What if you paid for things with only cash?
What if you didn’t measure your success by how much money you made or stuff you had?

Spirituality
What if you prayed more and worried less?
What if there is a God?
What if that God loves you?

Live Without Regrets

What if you could do it all over again?
What if these questions weren’t filled with regrets?

What if you got to the end of your life and never wondered, “What if?”

It’s better to ask, answer, and act on the “What if” questions now rather than wait until you’re older or until you’re told you have just a short time to live. We can’t go back and change what’s been done. But we can learn from the past and change how we move forward.

Don’t settle. Don’t accept status quo. Don’t wonder, “What if…?” It takes courage. But your family, your friends, the world, and your legacy are waiting on you to live with courage.

Photo courtesy of fadedmilkyway